Published in the PRG winter edition 2020
By Annie Keeling, MFA
How does your family communicate? Does your family yell too much? While yelling doesn’t feel good, it usually gets a response. And it can create disconnection by making others feel unsafe, triggering a survival response, or creating defiance.
Change the culture of yelling in your family. Make a commitment not to yell. Have a family meeting or family gathering and announce the goal to your family. “I’m going to become a more respectful person and parent. My family deserves that. I will try not to yell or threaten. When I make a mistake and do yell, call it to my attention in a quiet and respectful way. Then, I can try again.”
When the noise level in your home escalates, maybe your nerves do, too. Make a change by teaching your children three voice levels.
Playground voice: The outside voice used to yell across the playground to a friend.
Speaking Up Voice: Giving a speech at school or to a group. It’s loud enough so everyone can hear, but not as loud as the playground voice.
Inside Voice: Used for a short distances – about the length of your arm. It’s the voice for doing and saying anything inside your home.
Parents often tell their children to be quiet or use a softer voice. But telling is not teaching. When learning self-control, children need many chances to practice a new behavior. At a family meeting, or when everyone is gathered, give the whole family a chance to practice all three voice levels.
The Loud to Soft Game
To help children transition from outside to inside, try a volume game. Starting on the porch outside, have your children yell a phrase-of-the-day loudly. It could be funny words they’ve put together – “Larping Legos” or “I love gummy bears.” While still outside, they yell the phrase. With each step toward the front door, they lower the volume. My son liked to take it to extremes, whispering and tiptoeing right to the kitchen table.
Close the Distance
If you have ever called to a family member on the other side of the house, you had to raise your voice. No matter how congenial the content, if your voice is loud, you sound like you are yelling. Then the other person yells back. Pretty soon there is a shouting match. How can you use your Inside Voice if each person is too far away to hear it?
Close the Distance. That is, go to where the person you want to communicate with can see and hear you. You can also teach your child to come to you when you call them. Once you Close the Distance, use your Inside Voice. Closeness in proximity allows both speakers to use a peaceful, easy volume.
Annie Keeling, MFA, is the Parenting Specialist for Nevada County Superintendent of Schools. She teaches parenting classes throughout the year. Contact Annie to find the next class near you: firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-268-5086.